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Nepal's King Says He Seized Power to Save Democracy


In Nepal, King Gyanendra has described his recent takeover of power as a means to save democracy. The comments came as the international community steps up pressure for him to end emergency rule in the mountain country.

In a message on Nepal's traditional Democracy Day, King Gyanendra said Friday he assumed absolute power earlier this month to protect democracy because it was threatened by a bloody Maoist insurgency.

He also blamed political corruption for causing common people to become disillusioned with democracy.

The king's comments came as the army stepped up security in the capital Kathmandu to prevent pro-democracy protests planned for Friday. Phone links were cut or jammed, and some political leaders and activists trying to organize anti-monarchy marches have been detained.

Demonstrations have been barred under the new emergency rule, strict censorship has been imposed, and many political leaders are in custody.

Communication links were cut for days after the royal takeover.

Ram Baran Yadav, general-secretary of the Nepali Congress party and the country's former health minister is in India to lobby foreign governments and organizations for help in restoring democracy in his country. He says it is impossible for political activists to function in Nepal.

"Virtually there is military rule there, there is no political right, there is no civil right there, we cannot gather, we cannot demonstrate, we cannot oppose peacefully," said Mr. Yadav. "In the name of Maoists he has killed democracy there."

The king says he ousted the previous government for failing to end the Maoist insurgency and organize elections. But the international community has slammed his actions and called for him to quickly hand power back to the political parties.

The latest to join that call was Britain's Foreign Secretary Jack Straw during a visit to New Delhi Friday.

"We are very keen to see the restoration of representative government and of democratic freedoms as essential steps towards a sustainable peace process and we do not believe there is any future for the current situation," said Mr. Straw.

Indian Foreign Minister Natwar Singh has expressed hope that the king will "sooner rather than later" restore the democratic process in the country.

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